Friday, April 22, 2011

Boston 2011

Monday. A perfect combination of beautiful weather and tailwind for one of the most exciting marathons ever run. How a story is told is how it is remembered. Here are some snapshots of my experience.

Sometime around 6pm
On the fifth floor of a parking garage at Alewife Station, prone over a dirty trash can, in the midst of a violent vomiting spell. Mostly liquid. Is that a fig newton? Stand up and move to the awaiting car; feeling better.

10 minutes earlier
On the red line. Outbound. "Excuse me, I ran today, and I feel like I am going to pass out. Can I please have your seat?" - "Oh my god, yes! Please sit down!"

5 minutes earlier
Slumped against a stairwell in the Park street station, waiting for the outbound train. There's a busker playing some music that sounds vaguely Spanish. Not sure. May have imagined that.

8 minutes earlier
Green line. Inbound. Slouched on the steps of the subway car. Falling asleep. My brother gives me more water. Someone offers a seat to another marathoner. He passes. - "I'll take that seat." - Sit down and talk to the other runner, who ran 3:05 earlier. He'd eaten, had a beer, taken a shower and napped. I was happy not to be vomiting into the adjacent stroller.

20 minutes earlier
At a bus stop, sitting on a bench. Wrecked. Need water. Food. Have no appetite. Choke down a fig newton. Jenni and her sister arrive. She's got a protein drink that is hastily consumed.

Sometime just before 4pm
Jog the last tenth of a mile. Stop the Garmin. - "Well, there's no crowd cheering for you, but you did it."

About 5-10 minutes earlier
Stop for traffic. The world comes to a complete halt. - "I need to sit down, NOW." - Crumple to the ground. Take water and gatorade from Jim. Take a tangerine gel from Jeremy. Shake off the dizziness. Garmin reads just over 26 miles.

Mile 26
As Jeremy and I approach Kenmore, we exit left. Across the street, my brother Jim, Jenni and her sister are trying to find a place for Jim to cross. - "I might be able to get to 27" - It's slow going. He finds a place to cross, just before Mass Ave.

Miles 23-25
Met Jeremy (@silentproject) running. Not sure exactly where or when. We jogged for a bit. Achilles and ankle would bark. We'd walk. I keep apologizing to Jeremy for having to take walk breaks.

Miles 20-23
Kind of a haze. Alternated between walking and running. I wanted to slow things down. Couldn't stop thinking about Rebecca. Run into an old timer and chat for a bit. He's done 63 marathons. Start to think about how much more there is to learn.

Miles 18-20
At this point I started to walk/run. At first it was structured (5/1). Eventually broke down into walking whenever I felt like it, or whenever my feet started to complain. I knew I had a few miles until I ran into Jeremy or my brother. I just needed to stay moving forward until the cavalry arrived.

My friend Alett ran up next to me near the 20 mile beer stop. I probably muttered something about what had happened. Honestly, I was in such an upset state, I don't recall the specifics of our brief conversation.

The start of the heartbreak hills
Getting pissed in a port-a-john. I think about how the last four months of training just came to a crashing halt for Rebecca, about how for the first time in 10 marathons, she won't be able to finish, about how I won't get to wish her a happy birthday just before she turns down Hereford and onto Boylston and steps across that hallowed ground. I bound up that first hill, ignoring any kind of pacing, fueled by emotion.

Just over Mile 17
We can see Elise and her friend Hailey. They are screaming for us. Holding signs and so enthusiastically cheering us on. "Go Rebecca! You can do it!" I look over at Rebecca.

It is the saddest moment of my running life.

Miles 16-17
We walk. She repeatedly urges me to go on. To leave her behind. I repeatedly tell her she's crazy. Elise, a former co-worker is waiting for us just over 17. She'll help get Rebecca to her old office, where her husband will come to pick her up. Realizing that I've been neglecting my nutrition, and that the honey-water wasn't going to be enough, I take my first GU.

Sometime in Mile 15
I look back and Rebecca's walking. - "What's wrong? You OK?" - "Something happened to my knee. It went out?!?" - "Can you run?" - She tries to run. A wave of pain washes over her face. She stops. - "No. It hurts to walk. But I can manage."

I urge her to visit the nearest medical tent. She won't. I call her husband. I call our cameraman friend and let him know not to bother going to the finish line. She tries to jog again. She can't. We walk.

Mile 13-14
We're still pacing pretty well, although it had dropped a bit in the these miles. I ask if she's OK. She says her knee is feeling a little funky. My knee was kind of "dry in the socket" earlier in the day, but had sorted itself out, so we figure that some time at a slightly slower pace might let things loosen up or lubricate. So we agree to keep an eye on it and see how things go.

Miles 10-12
Still pacing great as we move through Natick and Wellesley. We're chatting about this that and everything and having a blast taking it all in.

Mile 10
We run into my friend John, who had agreed to give me some water on the course. It was great to see another familiar face on the course.

Miles 6-9 through Framingham
The hottest part of the race, but probably the happiest. We ran into familiar faces - coworkers and friends, including our friend Naor, who was videotaping the whole thing. Ran into Jim and Patti from Dailymile. We were passing the time chatting and taking in all there was to see, from costumed runners to drunk spectators. Having fun and pacing great.

Miles 3-6
Still pacing great. We're gaining minutes in the bank. Garmin pace runner is set to 11:20 and we're ticking off the mileage without any issues. My knee is a little bit tight but loosens up after a mile or so. Loving the downhill grade.

Miles 1-3
Nice and easy start. Ditched the long sleeve tee after a couple of miles. Stashed the gloves. The wind had died down and it was quite comfortable to run. Enjoying the beautiful morning.

It was WINDY at the start of this race. We arrived probably about 90 minutes prior to Rebecca's wave release. We hung out near the side of a building and tried to stay out of the wind, and in the sun. We talked with the other runners nearby, including some bandits that reassured me that there would be little to no issue getting in at the start. They were right. It was surprisingly easy to "sneak in" when the wave was released.

During this time, got to hang out with Megan (@veganrunningmom) for a few minutes before her warm-up. She was super nice in person, just as I expected. :)

Sometime around 7
On my way to meet Rebecca at her house. So excited to run by her side in her 9th Boston marathon and 10th overall. On her birthday no less. The plan is to run with her to about Kenmore, and then meet my brother to log a few extra miles and shoot for a 50k. I'll stop with her at 25 and change, give her a big hug and wish her a happy birthday, and then go off for my extra bit. It's going to be a fantastic day!

Had an awesome time at the expo and the Dailymile Meetup. Got to meet Bart Yasso at the expo and had a blast with everyone at McGreevy's.

Obviously, Monday didn't turn out how I had imagined it. But I learned a ton from the experience. The most important lesson is one that is frequently mentioned during any discussion about the marathon.


I approached this run with a lackadaisical attitude.

"Oh, it's just a training run. Rebecca's pace is so much slower, this'll be easy. I'll just tack on an extra 5 miles. No sweat."

There's a line from Spirit of the Marathon - "Some place in the marathon the distance is greater than the human ability to transcend it." - That needs to be heeded. Lesson learned

I didn't pay enough attention to nutrition, and learned that if you are going to use honey-water, you gotta shake that mix constantly, to make sure aren't just getting water for the first couple of hours. I didn't eat enough before the race, and my post-race recovery nutrition was woefully inadequate. Everything kind of went to hell after Rebecca got injured. I stopped paying attention to pace, stopped paying attention to GU's. I just went on auto-pilot in survival mode, moving toward Boston. I let my emotions overtake me.

At a certain point I realized just how little I know about endurance running. How new I am to this whole world. Rather than feeling discouraged by everything that went wrong in Boston, I'm energized. I want to solve the nutrition puzzle, see what my body can do at higher distances, on different terrain. I'm celebrating the fact that I covered 26.2 miles for the 3rd time, even if it was "unofficial".

I'll never forget the lessons learned this week. Monday afternoon was humbling. But I have so many great memories from the four months of training with Rebecca that one bad afternoon won't taint the experience. The cold, snowy/rainy runs, the pre-dawn runs by headlamp, the time on the single-track trails. Two people sharing the ups and downs that accompany marathon training. The nagging aches and pains, the joy of a beautiful sunrise run. The stories and inside jokes. Our friendship.

The journey itself is the reward. Try to remember this every day.

Someday I will run Boston again. But probably not for a while. In the meantime, I'll be out there as much as I can, taking it a day at a time. Maybe I'll see you on the trails.

Run, run, run.


  1. Nice job on a tough day. It's hard to get over leaving a man behind. I still remember watching the meat wagon going by at mile 24 and being so glad I wasn't on it.

    We keep running.

  2. Great write up. You definitely got the message across. Respect the distance. But hey, you made it there and you made it across the finish line on your own power. Well done!

  3. Wow! Just as I'm finally processing my Boston, this is an intense read! So sorry the day did not go as planned...but I guess the marathon is much like life. I guess we all need to be reminded to respect the distance. Great post!

  4. LOVE the positive attitude. Hope Rebecca's knee is feeling better and it's nothing serious. Nice Writeup Adam.